Transcript

00:01My name is Elliot, and I'm a director of Garsdale Design Limited.

00:06We're a small, family-run professional planning and architectural consultancy that specializes in Middle East city master planning.

00:13As you can see, we're not exactly a large multinational.

00:17That's our office there; we're in a converted traditional Yorkshire dales barn, so there you go. It's not an office block, is it?

00:29So let's start with an outline of the presentation.

00:32Apologies if it goes on a bit, but I think in this presentation, I'm just going to stick to talking...

00:39...about the workflows and practices I know best, rather than talk to you about the academic theory behind them.

00:46As I work in a small consultancy, we're concerned with a lot of practical things, for instance, managing our workloads...

00:54...and juggling our multiple roles as inevitably characterize a small office.

00:59On a professional level, workflows are what really concern me.

01:03I'm interested in how we can extract value from our digital work and get from A to B.

01:09This is really a presentation about my journey, and until relatively recently...

01:14...my whole perspective on how I work has been turned on its head, so please, follow me through the journey I've taken.

01:26So there really are two types of workflow that take place in our office - firstly, a main project workflow...

01:33...which is linear with defined start and end points, often designated by the client and the project's terms of reference.

01:43Secondly, there are process workflows that are often the small, iterative evaluations associated with particular tasks.

01:52These might be population modeling in spreadsheets, or at the detailed design stages, they include sketching and CAD work.

02:00We generally finish one phase of a project and use the outputs of that to inform the next stage.

02:07Ultimately, the smooth flow of data through our systems is critical.

02:13It's often when different types of work of data come together that it gets difficult.

02:21So let me start with the main work that we do now and the workflows that we've been using.

02:26In my office, we undertake a variety of work, from the very small single residential development up to region-wide structure plans.

02:33I think what we've learned recently is a question of scale and planning at the appropriate scale...

02:39...and that's come off of yesterday's presentation certainly.

02:46But the projects that define and consume us at the moment are city master planning projects. Currently, these are in Iraq.

02:53As you can see from the slide, we have a fairly linear approach to the process.

02:57This is not only defined by the client and the contract but is also how we were traditionally doing many planning projects.

03:03Each stage in this example has a proper report and associated spreadsheet tables, writing, and of course mapping.

03:11What many would see as the creative work is in the later phases where we start designing urban areas...

03:17...either at a strategic or detailed level.

03:19Sorry to all you spreadsheet power users out there. I know you can get quite creative with it...

03:24...but it really is the drawing elements that are where our creativity comes out.

03:31Our traditional workflows do work, but increasingly, they are buckling under the weight of information we now have at our fingertips...

03:41...thanks to the power of technology and, of course, GIS, as well as changing attitudes to data ownership.

03:49So sometimes the amount of incoming data for a project feels a bit like this.

03:55At the beginning of a project, there may be drought, but that quickly gives way to a torrent.

04:02So ArcGIS is used to manage all our geographic data that comes from a variety of sources...

04:09...householder surveys, old AutoCAD drawings, and often, quite a lot of shapefiles that have been digitized from old paper maps.

04:16Difficulties such as data quality are inevitable with our diverse projects.

04:21Our Iraqi partners do amazing work translating Arabic data into English, but we still have some guesswork to do...

04:28...to extract the value of that work.

04:31So it's managing the changing nature of some of our data is one of the key challenges we face.

04:40So needless to say, cities don't stand still politely waiting for our project to finish.

04:45It'd be nice, but they just don't, especially in Iraq, where there's been a desperate need for infrastructure projects.

04:51It's a brave person who stands up and says, "Don't build that sewage treatment plant or road until the master plan is ready.

04:59"Oh, and that will take a couple of years." You just can't say that.

05:02So our work goes in tandem with the normal growth of a city, as well as major construction and infrastructure projects.

05:09This guarantees our master plan is out of date before it is adopted.

05:12But don't worry - part of these projects is about training the Iraqi planning departments to manage our master plans...

05:19...knowing how to update them.

05:21In a real sense, we teach them to think in terms of process rather than product.

05:26A master plan is not a blueprint.

05:33So our clients in Iraq are mostly planners and politicians.

05:37Like in any country, they are educated, active, and eager to improve their cities, albeit in difficult, sometimes hostile, environments.

05:44Have you ever been to a local planning committee meeting? They're fairly hostile environments, you know?

05:52So client requests are part of this process.

05:55As a project progresses and plans become more evolved, the planning teams in the cities involved...

06:00...send in requests for advice in certain sites to ensure compliance with the emerging master plan.

06:07The photos that you see here are recent visits of our clients and Iraqi partners who came to the UK for training...

06:13...and you can see two of our younger staff there - my daughters.

06:21So all of our projects of course have deadlines, but the nature of development means that our approach has evolved to be flexible.

06:30We always expect changes, and inevitably, many occur just prior to submission, so right down at the end, right when you don't need them.

06:38Throughout our projects, we have always looked at ways to speed up our visual presentations.

06:43In terms of workload, they can take up quite a bit of time but are relatively low in importance...

06:48...when it comes to the actual analytical side of our work.

06:51Three-D imagery has always been part of this visual mix, and clients get excited by it and have now come to expect such visualizations.

06:59Try handing in just a 2D map, and you're bound to get asked what it would look like in 3D anyway. So it's important.

07:08We've recently completed the Nasiriyah city master plan in Dhi Qar Province in south of Iraq...

07:14...and are currently in the middle of preparing three master plans for cities in Wasit.

07:20In fact, I was working on them prior to coming here.

07:24Bit of a bad time to come out in a conference right at the end of a particular phase, but there you go.

07:31This means that we need to have a wide variety of visualizations produced toward the end of these projects.

07:36We produce a range of presentational materials to be included in the final report, including wall display maps and 3D visualizations.

07:44Our final month's city master plans also include a set of detailed studies in the final phases.

07:50These can be new neighborhood plans, linear development plans along major transport routes...

07:55...or, for example, detailed urban renewal schemes for waterfronts.

08:00Most of our visualization work has a relatively simple but time-consuming workflow.

08:05Increasingly, though, clients want their sophisticated 3D visualizations in a variety of media...

08:10...from the printed report to websites, video, and fully interactive walk-throughs.

08:15It's a big challenge for a small office, as you can appreciate.

08:19They do not just want to be told in words how to implement the master plan.

08:24They want to see it; they want to feel how it would be to walk around it.

08:30And it's perfectly understandable.

08:32After all, most of these plans are going to be subject to consultation by the general public...

08:35...who don't necessarily have a background in reading maps, for instance.

08:42So how have we done such visualizations in the past?

08:44Well, we sketch them, we scan and georeference, we digitize them in AutoCAD or ArcGIS.

08:55It feels pretty antiquated when I stand up here in front of you lot saying this, but...

09:00Import it into SketchUp - yeah, we still use SketchUp - and we also import it into some rendering software...

09:06...when we want to make it extra pretty.

09:09So the different methods and workflows of producing these visualizations add to the time scales...

09:14...just at the point when we need them to be completed really quickly.

09:18We've always used a combination of professional software packages to produce our 3D visualizations.

09:23We have always used traditional hand-drawn images, but then increasingly, SketchUp and for presentational material.

09:30These all take incredible amounts of time to complete in-house.

09:34What we have never done before is produce a complete 3D model of a whole neighborhood, let alone a city...

09:40...because such a task seemed to be just too time-consuming.

09:44Conventional professional 3D modeling packages are good and can do this, but they require too much of our time...

09:48...and effort for anything more than visualizing small sections or details of our master plans.

09:56So after some research a couple of years back, after getting fed up with working with SketchUp for several days on an area...

10:04...I looked at ways of trying to tackle the issues that we'd been discovering...

10:08...and we came across an interesting software tool called CityEngine.

10:13The first license I got for it, I got a discount 'cause I liked it on Facebook. So it's pre-Esri.

10:22Yeah. So an idea for the future, Jack? Maybe?

10:31So it showed its promise purely because it worked with a variety of formats, so I thought it could fit in with our AutoCAD...

10:38...ArcGIS, and sort of SketchUp workflows. I really thought that this could work.

10:42I saw the import/export capabilities of it.

10:46In the beginning, we used real data from a project and essentially experimented with it.

10:52But from the moment I started using it, it became apparent this Procedural modeler would not only save us huge amounts of time...

10:58...in producing the 3D visualizations, it had the potential to totally - totally - change the way we think about our own workflows.

11:11So this is the exciting bit, now, what I'm doing with it now, what I've left in the UK to come and talk to you about now...

11:19...is I'm finally using CityEngine in anger [phonetic] in the way I've wanted to use it, not just sort of in experimental stages.

11:28We're combining 3D work in SketchUp with some of the models in CityEngine.

11:31As you can see, the time taken to model urban areas is dramatically increased [sic].

11:36This model, it's a real model, it took us four days in SketchUp for the same project, four days for a neighborhood center.

11:45And that was done by my father.

11:47And the one on the right, that was done in half a day in CityEngine, and that's a whole city quarter.

11:55Now, there's a lot of work gone into that with the rule files, but that was from previous experimentation.

12:00So actually, the work gets quicker the more data you have, the more rule files you have about it.

12:08So, yeah, a lot of work is up front, but eventually, it gets quicker and quicker.

12:13I mean, it really has been incredibly dramatic.

12:16I mean, we know how long it takes to do it in SketchUp, and it's changed us.

12:22We're now looking to combine, you know, the models we've already made in previous projects and shove them into new master plan models.

12:31So all the assets we've built over time, they're still usable; we're still using them today.

12:38And CityEngine hasn't changed that. It's just allowed us to do more with it.

12:43The other tool we've been using is a real-time rendering package; we're using Lumion at present.

12:48While secondary to the modeling, Lumion improves the quality of imagery we produce...

12:53...and we're no longer waiting overnight to see some of the results of those renderings. So the imagery is quite nice.

12:59It's not necessarily photorealistic, but in urban planning and master planning projects, you don't necessarily need that.

13:07So I'm pretty sure everyone in this room has been on a project where changes are needed just prior to finishing the project.

13:14Yeah, right at the last minute, something comes along; we've missed it.

13:18This slide shows what can happen on a project. They built a bridge without telling us.

13:26Yeah. There's a bit more of a story to it, but this can happen. Things like this happen.

13:37We're discovering at the detailed design stages that CityEngine can allow us to make quick changes to the detailed plans...

13:42...such as a new road, and give us a corresponding 3D model.

13:45This sort of change would've taken significant time just for a visualization a few months, even a few weeks ago...

13:52...but in CityEngine, you can do it in a day. So the turnaround has improved.

14:01Well, I've got ideas for CityEngine and some of the CityEngine folk if they forgive me, please.

14:07I've been bending their ear about it for a while now.

14:11Our next job is an urban renewal project, which will require much more detail...

14:16...than the relatively simple level of detail we have used in our master planning work.

14:20CityEngine seems, to us at any rate, to be able to model at macro and micro planning levels. It's a question of imagination.

14:28But while I'm not involved in the development of CityEngine's tools...

14:31...I'm certain that there's going to be more capabilities developed through it.

14:35I've been working with ways of letting the rule files create its own data instead of responding to the 2D data.

14:42So a lot of the demonstrations you see are taking value from the 2D assets you have.

14:47What I want to see is CityEngine create rather than just take.

14:52So by that, I mean, for instance, choosing points within a city and varying the model depending on its distance from that point.

15:04The beauty here is I can have multiple points.

15:08Could I really use CityEngine to distribute neighborhood centers based on variables I give it? We'll have to see.

15:15I mean, the common thread is we do a lot of planning standards in Excel, and I want to be able to convert those...

15:21...fairly simplistic rules and standards and put it into a tool like CityEngine and it does it for me.

15:28It's the path of least resistance. Call me lazy.

15:34So but until then, try not to think of CityEngine as just being about cities; there's much more potential.

15:43I've already looked at how it might help respond to soils and relief in a forestry model, so why not other areas as well?

15:49This is quick model I did based on height of trees and mix of ages of trees on some open data that I got in the UK...

16:01...and there's some wind turbines in the distance just to give it a bit of edge.

16:10So finally, I come to this term geodesign. I've been wary of using the term in this presentation.

16:17For one thing, it didn't feature in my university courses, so I don't know at firsthand how it's regarded academically. Yeah?

16:25The other reason is I believe a lot of us have been doing geodesign for some time...

16:30...but never explicitly using the term geodesign to describe it.

16:34When I was invited to be a featured speaker, I thought I'd better read up on the geodesign term...

16:39...and one of the things I read was linked to from this summit's website, "Changing Geography by Design."

16:44One particular phrase that stood out for me was "The sketch is key to geodesign."

16:52And you can see a lot of our work has been about the detailed design; that's where we get excited.

16:56Not the strategic sort of broad view but some of the details; we like that.

17:01And in some respects, I'm going to have to worry about this.

17:06If the key to geodesign is sketching, I'm in trouble; I'm in big trouble.

17:11You see, I can't draw. No, really. I'm quite good at tracing, and give me a coloring book, I'm reasonable.

17:22I'm reasonable at coloring, but sketching and drawing, well, I'm not an artist. My three-year-old daughter is, but not me.

17:30Both of my fellow directors - I call them Mum and Dad - can draw; they can draw. They're architects by training.

17:40Not only that, they have at least 30-plus years of design experience as well as being used to work without computers.

17:47Yes, there are people out there that have not learned computers from the start of their lives.

17:52So is it going to be back to the old drawing board for me?

17:57Well, for all my colleagues' artistic talent, today's projects use only a fraction of that.

18:01We're increasingly reliant on vast amounts of facts and figures as well as new theories and models.

18:06The sheer amount of data we now have to take into account can overwhelm the design stages.

18:12So the design process has been forced from pen and paper onto the computer.

18:16For my colleagues' generation, design on a computer is not a natural process, so what happens is this.

18:23They draw designs, and I scan them, georeference, and trace the designs into GIS.

18:28It sounds familiar to what has been talked about already.

18:32It's lucky I'm good at tracing, I guess. You know?

18:37As I see it, the future of geodesign and the emergence of devices like tablets will allow people who are good at sketching...

18:42...to get back to the pure design.

18:44Designers will know what they do is constantly being informed by underlying data, and that if key assumptions change...

18:51...their designs can still be used within a new model.

18:55I suspect I shouldn't have been worried about my lack of design expertise.

18:59Maybe a geodesign program could well be created that will make it look like I can draw.

19:04Until people create that geodesigner, my strength is in systems, workflows, and technologies.

19:10Theirs is in their ability to conceptualize and ultimately produce a good design.

19:14So my hope is that in the near future we will be able to have a natural, almost effortless, approach to design.

19:19This should look as natural as my daughter is doing here, but actually we're harnessing huge amounts of data and knowledge as we do so...

19:26...in fact, just like we already do but on a bigger and better scale.

19:32So this is my big idea, because our workflows are going to change radically in the next few years.

19:42Look at what CityEngine has done for one of our workflows.

19:46It has already cut the time spent the time spent creating a model by more than half and allowed us to keep our 3D modeling in-house.

19:53It will only get quicker as our stock of rule files increases and the software development moves on.

19:58It started with me wondering what a really exciting demonstration of our skills and the power of CityEngine would look like in the future.

20:10Such a demonstration would show how the use of a tool like CityEngine can inform, at all stages...

20:16...the master planning process even from the outset.

20:19This sounds strange, but at present we start with background studies, involve that into a number of growth options for a city...

20:24...and from that, the client chooses.

20:27This happens over months, if not years.

20:29The problem with this approach is that, early on, the client chooses the direction of growth.

20:33But what if the situation changes? Something that's bigger than just a bridge?

20:38It's going to be costly and timely [sic] to start again.

20:41What I envisage happening in the future is that tools like CityEngine and the concepts of geodesign can be harnessed together.

20:46This will allow multiple versions of a city master plan to go through all at the same time...

20:50...then the client can choose at the end of the process a complete city plan, knowing all of its implications...

20:57...from building information modeling to any other measurable indicator.

21:01So they have a true choice in every sense of the word.

21:08So essentially, you could start with a blank sheet, knowing how many people you need to plan for...

21:13...and a default set of planning standards based on the country or region the project is in.

21:18As the project progresses, then more information is delivered - existing roads, terrain, or land uses, for example.

21:25And as each data layer is imported into the GIS, the CityEngine rules you have created run over it again...

21:32...and within your defined parameters, remake the proposed city or growth area.

21:37As the ideas are formulated, new planning policies can be created that are fed into the rule files...

21:44...so that a very specific model for the area is created to show what the resulting urban fabric would look like.

21:51For example, you could take solar data and use that for the basis of orientating buildings in the master plan.

21:58So with a clever rule, whole buildings could be orientated automatically depending on the location in relation to the sun, even in a valley.

22:07I already do this for visualizations with details such as satellite dishes on roofs and mosques...

22:13...that need correct orientation on a citywide level.

22:16I mean, you take the model and you just adjust the slider bar...

22:19...and whole buildings across your city move and individual assets on your roofs.

22:26So it's incredibly simple once you've programmed it into the rule file.

22:31I think the problem with this concept is that it's simple but it requires a lot of computing power.

22:38However, I think we're approaching now a time when computing power is a product of...

22:42...how many machines in the cloud you can afford to have working on the problem.

22:47The instant city idea relies on the cloud computing or a very powerful computer to make it a reality.

22:54What I envisage is a large visual display at a geoconference and many tablets available.

22:59Attendees could contribute to the design process of a city by adding data - satellite imagery, obstacle maps, roads, et cetera.

23:05As each layer was placed in the model, CityEngine would update the city model...

23:09...and GIS would in turn update its analysis, pie graphs, et cetera, all in real time.

23:16This is very much a formative idea at the moment, and we need a lot of development.

23:19Nevertheless, it would be a great experiment and show off in real time some of the geodesign concepts in practice...

23:24...and sort of provide a focus for different professions to come in and share their ideas.

23:33So I have some thoughts - they're just bullet points, really - but there's a number of issues that have come out...

23:41...of me looking at CityEngine and what future uses we could have for it.

23:46One of the key issues I see at the moment is the sheer amount of information we all have access to now.

23:55I can get thousands and thousands of Excel spreadsheets of the minutest detail of my council's spending program.

24:04And how are we going to interpret that? We haven't got the skills, we haven't got the time.

24:09The professionals are doing other things, and the public don't have those tools available.

24:14Well, we're seeing GIS software is getting easier and cheaper, open source development, cloud computing.

24:22So I think those two are going to converge and help one another.

24:31When I talk about sketching as being sort of a fluid and natural process, I just want to tie in some ideas of haptic feedback.

24:38So you have a pen that gets heavier to draw across a particular relief, so you're...

24:46...you know in the database that drawing a road on a steep hill is probably not a good idea unless you're in San Francisco probably.

24:56But it would get heavier.

24:57There would be some kind of feedback back from that to inform the designer that you are doing something that has a cost.

25:05But no visuals; it's just sort of slight feedback, some pushing you in the right direction.

25:13There's some "gamification" ideas.

25:23And I've got to thank James Fee for a blog post on Minecraft he did recently, which is the playground there you see.

25:31But it sounds like I'm trivializing this idea, but there is cost involved in designing things...

25:41...and if you can have that feedback, whether it be haptic or some numbers - every time you digitize a point, there's a cost...

25:49...and if you have a slight reminder on the screen when you're digitizing, as a designer, I think that's going to be hugely helpful.

25:55So not so much competing against each other, but competing against the set of goals that you have in place.

26:03Large rollable displays. It's something I've been hoping for for ages, and it might be just around the corner, just next week. Maybe.

26:13I've seen the process of some of the geodesign elements where you get out a pen and you project your map onto a table...

26:23... and you start drawing, but it's using a weak controller.

26:25It seems to be sort of a cobbled-together solution or you have to buy very expensive computer whack-'em tablet screens to do it.

26:35But what I'd like to see is some more natural technologies come through, so you just come into a meeting and you unroll a map.

26:42And everyone knows that you put a map in front of people and they start talking, but if you can let them draw on it, that's even better.

26:49And if I don't have to trace it - again, I'm lazy. What can I say?

26:56But all of this, all of these ideas really rely on some pretty essential technology, some really basic stuff, Internet connections.

27:08And it's a bit of an issue for us at the moment in that we are based in a rural area, and our DSL speeds are good enough for watching movies...

27:19...BBC, right? - but when you start wanting to contribute to the discussion, when you want to participate in conferences...

27:29...or when you want to upload the data that we've created, we're still having to put some of those on DVDs and send them...

27:36...or leave it uploading overnight. You know, we've got 7 megabytes down, but we've half a megabyte up.

27:42I mean, there's a real consequence at the last minute. We've always got - we could use those two days.

27:48If we had instant upload speeds, we might - we'll buy ourselves more time and we can do some more exciting things with it.

27:56So are any of what I had, my instant city idea, is it impossible?

28:02Well, if you told me some, like last week or a couple of weeks back, you could build a 30-story skyscraper in 15 days a month ago...

28:10...well, I might've given you an odd look.

28:14But they're doing it. There's people out there in China building an incomplete tower block in a factory...

28:21...and then coming out on-site, and in 15 days, they've got themselves a high-rise building.

28:25And I don't know if any of you have seen some of the YouTube videos of this, actually time-lapse photography.

28:31And they're looking at building it in three months.

28:37I mean, so when we talk about impossibilities, we really have to look at other industries and see what they're doing...

28:43...because I don't think anything's particularly impossible anymore.

28:47I haven't done any exciting demonstrations, but I do have this video at the end.

28:52It's speeded up, but it is half a day's work.

28:56I apologize for some of the grainy elements to it; I didn't realize it was going to be projected on such a big screen.

29:03My office is not that tall, so...

29:09Right. So this is what it feels like for me after working with SketchUp and then doing it this way.

29:17That's a utility network. I'm putting in some pylons, and it's super quick.

29:23And it's just a question of writing the right rule file, really.

29:27Going to have a look at a generic office block, building up the model.

29:33You can change all the variables in it - satellite dishes; trams, we can move them along the track; here's a car park.

29:40Do you want occupancy rates? You know.

29:46And you can change the minutest detail in that model.

29:49You can look at an individual building and set the streets up.

29:55So you can really - it's all about scale.

30:00That's the power of CityEngine as I see it; the different scales you can work at are pretty incredible.

30:06And the bridge.

30:09You know, this is where it comes into its own, when you're changing the different types of support structure.

30:18So okay, I'm back again. We're repeating it. You don't want to see it again.

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The Instant City—Geodesign and Urban Planning

Elliot Hartley, director of Garsdale Design Limited, demonstrates how he uses geodesign and CityEngine in his project planning workflows.

  • Recorded: Jan 25th, 2013
  • Runtime: 30:31
  • Views: 1175
  • Published: Feb 12th, 2013
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